You are here: Home » Design Tips » Decorating Details: When Opposites Attract

Decorating Details: When Opposites Attract

Design Tips

Decorating with opposites adds texture and dimension. Whether you mix old and new, light and dark, hard and soft, you’ll find that these pairings add interest to every room.

I love opposites and just can’t resist pairing them in my home.  A little of the unexpected goes a long way toward creating interest and catching your eye. 

And the best part? 

The possibilities for opposites are endless!  Old and new, masculine and feminine, hard and soft, shiny and dull, curved and straight…the list goes on and on! If you haven’t considered decorating with opposites, you might want to reconsider…

Rustic and Elegant

One of my favorite opposites is to mix rustic and elegant, like tattered old books paired with crystal, or an old, worn industrial dress form with delicate pearls. Simply take anything that is rustic – textured, chippy, rusty, earthy, crackled – and paint it with something very elegant – crystal, silver, china, pearls, gems, etc.

closeup of vintage books with white pearl necklace draped across them
brown antique dress form with multiple strands of white pearls around neck and pink and green christmas decor in background

Masculine and Feminine

Mixing masculine and feminine objects also creates visually interesting pairs.  The furniture in my guest bedroom is black and the cabinet contains a lot of heavy, industrial items, so I’ve added white ruffle bedding and flowers to soften the look. Masculine objects tend to be things that are dark, hard, or industrial. Feminine are softer and lighter.

black antique bed with blue and white bedding and black artwork above and black antique hutch with books and trophies
closeup of antique silver trophy cup with feathers inside and dried pink roses at base
closeup of industrial photo holder with black and white photos and dried pink rose in silver cup at base

Complementary Colors

Colors can be fun to mix, too!  I tend to decorate with mostly neutrals, so my pairings may be different than those that are color-lovers, but to me, complementary colors {colors that are opposite from one another on the color wheel} always look beautiful together!

closeup of cut limes on board next to ironstone bowl of limes with pellagrino and pink flowers
closeup of small white pumpkins on dining table surrounded by fall floral display in pinks greens and orange

Light and Dark

I also like the idea of mixing light and dark tones.  The trestle table in my dining room was a consignment store purchase and I love how the dark stain contrasts with the lighter oak on my chairs. But any mixture of light and dark is beautiful, it doesn’t have to be just furniture. Think about how beautiful the color combination of black and white looks!

round french linen chairs with numbers on the back in dining room with white orchid on the table and vintage bread paddles hanging on the wall
trumeau mirror above entry table flanked by french sconces with demijohn and basket underneath the table

Hard and Soft

Hard and soft also creates an interesting mix.  I try to add something organic to every space to help break up clean lines and hard surfaces.

closeup of button fern in ironstone pot next to bowl of white numbered balls and wooden calendar
cherry blossom stems in an ironstone pitcher on coffee table with an antique book and sectional sofa in background with french pillows

When it comes to decorating, the old adage is true!  Opposites DO attract!

More Decorating Tips